When a squirrel first appeared at Progressive Field two weeks ago, it came at a time when the Cleveland Indians were an atrocious offense in a streak of games that were tough to watch. The comic relief a seemingly innocent creature skipping around the field was enough to win our Player of the Week vote by maybe the largest margin ever.
He was instantly dubbed the “Rally Squirrel” by Matt Underwood, and everyone — including myself — followed the trend.
We were deceived.
The signs were there from the beginning, but we ignored them. When the Indians went 1-for-8 on May 13, the date of the squirrel’s first appearance, we shrugged it off as a coincidence. “It’s still the Rally Squirrel,” some might say, with the understanding that any animal + sport = rally animal. But that’s clearly not the case after tonight.
The squirrel (or another squirrel, we don’t know yet if this is a network of demons or a lone wolf [sorry, lone squirrel].) appeared again tonight in the bottom of the sixth inning. At the time, Mike Clevinger was nearing the end of his night, but the Indians were very much still in the game, thanks to a Jose Ramirez bomb and a big inning capped by a Carlos Santana run batted in.
Then this happened a few innings later:
Tribe game. Squirrel. Nuff said. pic.twitter.com/mPgKBIp4g4— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 27, 2017
The masses cheered for the squirrel, believing their false idol would bring them a win that they so desperately need at home. Something, anything to buck the league-worst 8-11 (now 8-12) record the Indians carry at Progressive Field. But for everyone paying attention, the squirrel is a doombringer, and doom he brought.
His sapping of the offense was the most obvious evil. With tonight in the books, Indians batters are now 4-for-23 in games following his appearances. Not to mention that he has appeared in the 6(66)th inning both times, but that’s a story for another day.
Not only did the Indians immediately strike out twice after his appearance tonight, not only did the Indians fail to score with runners on first and second and one out, and not only did the Indians utterly deflate in the ninth inning, the squirrel went after two of the Tribe’s most powerful figures: Andrew Miller and Francisco Lindor.
With Miller on the mound in the eighth, looking extremely mortal, Eric Hosmer hit a ball right to Francisco Lindor who, while clearly under some kind of dark squirrel magic, let it slip right by him. If there is more one squirrel in play here, I have to believe they are working together to sap the talent of the Indians to form some kind of Monstars squad.
Clevinger avoided much of the squirrel’s wrath tonight. Instead, he gave up a couple bad pitches at really bad times for two really bad home runs. The first came on a pretty okay pitch to Brandon Moss that the former-Indian blasted for a three-run home run. Then, an inning later, Clevinger served up a meatball to Mike Moustakas that suffered the same fate.
As The Athletic’s T.J. Zuppe notes, both were changeups, and the one to Moustakas as in the worst possible place:
Both homers allowed by Clevinger tonight came on changeups. Location to Moustakas (middle of the plate) certainly less than ideal. pic.twitter.com/qXMC2SnZJ5— T.J. Zuppe (@TJZuppe) May 27, 2017
Luckily for Clevinger, the Indians front office and managerial staff is a smart bunch. They’ll be able to see that his four runs came off two bad pitches, while the rest of his night was filled with pitches down in the zone. Most importantly, he only walked one batter in his five innings of work. Surely Terry Francona wants to see more out of the young pitcher, but he might have already showed enough to keep his starting job when Corey Kluber returns, whenever he returns.
The important part of this game is simple: Don’t trust the squirrel. He’s not a rally squirrel. He’s not a good omen. He is all that is evil, and like most squirrels he probably destroys your bird-feeder and stores nuts in your gutters like a grade-a jerk. Stay woke.